If you’ve just bought snowboard boots, you might be wondering how to, or even if you need to, break in snowboard boots.
Every snowboard boot is different, depending on both brand and model. It also depends on if your boot has a heat mold-able liner or not. So, how much breaking in is required before the boot feels like it’s just an extension of your foot, will really depend on the boot.
Heat Mold-able Liners
Thankfully a large majority of boots these days have heat mold-able liners. All of the boots I come into contact with do, anyway. But some cheaper brands and models won’t have heat mold-able liners.
The liner is the main thing we are talking about here. The shell of the boot will break down over time and can pack out a bit over time, but this is over a longer period of time than the liner, so the liner is the main thing.
Machine Heat Mold or Natural Heat Mold?
Assuming your boots have heat mold-able liners, there are two ways you can mold them to your foot. You don’t necessarily have to do anything except snowboard.
You can either:
- Just ride with your boots until they mold to your foot
- Actually have the boots heat molded in a store
A lot of boots will be fine and will break in, just by riding with them for a couple of days. Some even quicker. Some boots just feel good right out of the box. Others take longer.
Typically stiffer boots and boots with higher quality liners tend to take longer to break in. You can still break these in by just riding in them, but it will usually take a little longer than softer flexing boots and lower quality liners.
Boots without heat-moldable liners will still mold to your foot when riding to some extent. You just can’t do the next option.
Not sure if “machine” is the right word to use, but for lack of a better word, let’s call it that.
If you feel like your boots are taking a while to naturally heat mold, or if you are eager to give them a head start before you get out on the mountain, you can speed up the process by heat-molding them in a store.
This process consists, essentially of the liner (with footbed removed) being heated up, and then you put your feet in your boots (with footbeds replaced) and do them up as you would normally. And then you stand in them (preferably in roughly your snowboard stance) for 10-15 minutes.
If you feel like there’s a lot of pressure on the top, front or sides of your toes, you could also where a toe cap over your foot, whilst you are heat-molding to help that area pack out more.
Heat Molding at Home
Most stores, in my experience, will do this for free, but if the store your looking at charges (and you don’t want to pay for it) or if you can’t or don’t want to go into a store, you can do this at home too. I usually just go into a store, but the video below shows how you can do it at home.
My Recent Experience
I recently had boots heat molded in store. I bought them towards the end of the 2017-18 season and rode them for 7 days during that season. But after 7 days they still weren’t feeling hugely comfortable and there was pressure on my toes.
The boots are Vans Infuse 2018. These are slightly stiffer than average boots and come with Vans highest quality liner, so no big surprise that they were taking longer to break in than the previous softer Vans boots I had owned. I also own the 2016 Vans Aura and they broke in very quickly – just a couple of days riding in them.
So I had them heat molded in store, including using a toe cap to try to relieve a bit of pressure in that area.
Certainly there’s a bit more space in there now. But only subtly. Noticeable but subtle.
Depending on your feet and the boots, heat molding will certainly speed things up, but just don’t expect it to massively change the shape of the boot. Which is a good thing, as the boot will pack out more over time, and you don’t want things to pack out too far too soon – and also to prolong the life of the boot.
If you have boots that are on the tighter fitting side, even after heat molding and riding for a while with them, then getting the thinnest socks you can, can really help.
In my opinion, this isn’t going to affect the warmth in your feet. This is because if your feet are too snug in the boot, then there is less circulation going on. With the thinner sock, there may not be as much insulation, but it should increase the circulation, which should warm things up and counteract, at least to some extent, the reduced insulation.
Then as your boots pack out more, then you can wear thicker socks if you choose.
For comfort reasons, I still recommend getting snowboard specific socks, which tend to have cushioning and strengthening in the areas you want them in a snowboard boot. Just go for the thinnest one you can find.
Other Things You Can Do Apart from Heat Molding
Outside of heat molding there are some other things you can do, to help to break them in, before you hit the mountain.
One of those things is simply wearing your boots around the house.
Walking in Your Boots
Simply put on your boots, wearing your snowboard socks, and tighten them just as you would if you were going snowboarding, and just walk around in them. If you have time, you can do this for a couple of hours, and if you’re not going to be wearing them on the mountain in the next few days, then you could do this everyday for a few days.
The other thing you can do is strap in to your bindings on your board and simulate some turns.
Outside, or on a surface that isn’t going to be damaged by your snowboard’s edges, strap into your bindings as you would as if you about to ride, with your boots done up just how you would ride in them.
Then push up onto your toe edge and hold there for like 20-30 seconds.
Then push back onto your heel edge and hold there for like 20-30 seconds.
Repeat for however long you want to.
These two things can help speed up the process and make things quicker once you get on the mountain, but of course there’s no substitute for actually riding in the boots.
Those are things that I do or have done in the past to break in snowboard boots. I’m sure there are other things you can do. If you have any other methods/strategies for breaking in boots, feel free to leave a comment below. I’d love to hear some other ideas.
Nik Frey says
Hey dude, thanks for the info on heat-molding. I have the new Vans Infuse 2023 and I am stoked on them since they are the first boots I’ve owned that seem to actually lock my heel in. However, they were painful on the top of my feet after wearing them around the house for a few days… so I got them heat molded.
However, the shop doing the heat molding did NOT take the footbeds out. Do you see an issue with this? The heat molding fixed the pain problem I was having, though now I’m afraid they are too packed out and my heel will lift again. Would you love your thoughts on this. Thanks!
Thanks for your message.
They should have taken the footbeds out when heating up the boots and then put them back in before you put your foot in them. If they left the footbed in the whole time I don’t think it’s a major thing. I have done it before when heat molding and it didn’t seem to have any noticeable effect. I still take them out, because that’s what I’ve been told you’re supposed to do, but when I forgot I didn’t notice any difference, so I think you should be OK. It’s unlikely they will be too packed out from heat molding. A little bit of heel lift is OK. But best if it’s less than 1cm. Usually if you try lifting the heel up you will get some lift even in the best heel hold boots, but when you’re actually in the act of making a toe side turn, you won’t actually notice that lift (with boots with good heel hold).
Hope this helps
What’s your opinion on heat molding boots? Does it just depend on the boot or do you always heat mold or vice versa?
Thanks for your message.
I think it depends on the boots and how they fit your feet. If they feel really comfortable from day 1, then you don’t necessarily have to, if you don’t want to go to the trouble. Most of the time, there’s something that you want to break in a little more. Maybe a bit of pressure on the top of the foot – or on the toes or something that you want to alleviate. In which case it’s usually a good idea to heat mold. But the boots will heat mold naturally to your feet over time as you ride them as well. So it’s not 100% necessary to heat mold them. Just a way to get them feeling more comfortable sooner than just riding in them alone.
I got a pair of K2 Raider boots. I usually am a size 9 US in most sneakers but in converse I fit an 8.5 US perfectly. So, I thought a size 9 boot would fit just as well but they feel tight to the point where my feet would hurt although, my toes when fully extended push into the tip of the boots but relaxed just sit right against the foam in the liner. Is this just a “wear them till they break in” moment or do snowboard boots fit a whole size small? I am scared to ride out with these boots again just to take many breaks on the slope after one run.
Thanks for your message.
Snowboard boots don’t typically fit one size too small. But I’ve found that fitting snowboard boots can be weird and really varies from brand to brand as well. Personally I find that I’m a 10 or 9.5 in shoes and I’m a 10 or 9.5 in snowboard boots. But for some brands I’m bordering on a 10.5. For K2 boots however, I’m typically a 9.5, though I can wear a 10. I find a 9.5 tight, but after a bit of wearing it tends to be a better fit than the 10 for me. But it’s a close call for K2 for me. Given that you’re usually a US9, I think you would most likely be a 9 in K2 or potentially an 8.5, but I would be surprised if you were a 9.5. So it might be a case of needing to break them in a bit more. But that said, no guarantees as it’s not always the same experience, even with people with the same length feet. For reference, my longest foot (left foot a bit longer than my right) is 27.3cm – the mondo of a 9.5 is 27.5cm. The mondo of a 10 is 28cm – so typically I fit in something that’s quite a bit longer than my mondo.
Have you had the boots heat molded?
Hey man, I have a new pair of thirty two boots. I got them at the end of last season and rode them once. I made it half way through my day and was in too much pain to carry on. I have had them heat molded with a few toe caps for space. Been wearing them around the house and my feet kill after an hour or two in them. I bought 10’s and I am a 10.5 or 11. Do you think I stick it out with these? Will they pack out enough to be comfortable? Any ideas of what to do prior to my next ride do I don’t ruin my day again? Thanks!
Thanks for your message.
It sounds like they’re too small. If you’re a 10.5 or 11, then you’ll probably want to go to at least a 10.5. I find Thirty Two fits me best in 10.5 and I’m typically a 10. So, yeah, I just think the size is wrong and you’ll need to move to a larger size. You could try wearing thinner socks, if you have any and aren’t already wearing your thinnest socks. You could try having them heat molded a second time to see if that helps, but I think ultimately you’ll need a bigger size.
Hope this helps
32 runs small!
Thanks Ryan – definitely a more succinct way of putting it than I did!
Run them over with my car?
Just ride my pair from 1998 ?
Elvis Almenar says
Hi Nate, do you have any recommendations for a pretty thin socks?
I would try something like the Burton Performance+ Lightweight or the Ultralight weight compression (if you want to go really thin). Most snowboard socks should have a “weight” rating. Usually ultralight, light, medium and heavy. Hope this helps
Steve McCrory says
Just a quick question……would you “condone” using a balance board set-up (like the Indo-board) as a way to break in snowboard boots?
Hope you’re have a great Holiday Season.
It’s not something I’ve tried (using a balance board at all, or using it to break in snowboard boots), but I can’t see the harm in it. Maybe the only thing would be slightly different mechanics if you’re not strapped into bindings, but that’s just a quick thought and no actual basis behind that or how that would effect the break in of the boots. I would say it would be fine.
Hope you have a great holiday season too!